Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Physically Ill or Depressed or ...

There is a physical state called Dysautonomia. For those who have it, you are probably told you have Adrenal Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, or Depression. For those who never heard of the word, Wikipedia states: "Dysautonomia is any disease or malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. This includes postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), vasovagal syncope, mitral valve prolapse dysautonomia, pure autonomic failure, autonomic instability and a number of lesser-known disorders. Other disorders, such as multiple system atrophy (Shy-Drager syndrome) and chronic fatigue syndrome,[ have dysautonomia as one of several system malfunctions." In English, you feel wiped out, you have a hard time moving, and you certainly don't tap dance and do the Lambada in public nor in private. It's a crappy way to feel.

For people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III, also known as Joint Hypermobility Disorder, it's part of the reason why pain doesn't seem to disappear even after taking medications. When I first was diagnosed with EDS, I had no idea what would happen to me years from then. I only knew I had a great amount of flexibility, my fingers went wiggly, and I could snap my elbows, knees, ankles and fingers in and out of the socket at will. I also have been an insomniac for as many years, sleeping less than four hours a night at the longest stretch, and that added to the utter feeling of uselessness. When I was treated for depression, I was also subject to aphasia.

Aphasia is the disorder that a lot of seniors get- they can see and think of a word, but they have a problem bringing it to their mouths. I have that reaction every time I'm on anti-depressant medication. My synapses are being twisted around, and they seem to baffle the vocal functions. This could be the proverbial blessing for any of my boyfriends, or my husband, but it's infuriating for me. More about this affliction later, but for now- dealing with Dysautonomia is a problem for many women, especially those of us with joint disorders, including Lupus, Marfan's, and EDS, and those who are diagnosed with Cushing's and Thyroid disorders.

The first signs of autoimmune disorder started to appear around the time I was diagnosed with EDS. I would have long bouts with sinus infections, and I had tested positive for Mono for years from the time I was 15 until I was almost 30. I never "just" had a cold. I would end up with Bronchial Pneumonia. In the late 1970's and early 1980's very little was known about autoimmune disorders except for the work being done to uncover HIV. There was no clear answer as to why the body would attack itself, although women with fertility issues were often told that their bodies were attacking sperm. It made sense that our bodies would attack an outside source, but doctors didn't understand that our bodies would attack our own organs.

Those who suffer with Crohn's Disease are more than aware of that feeling. Their digestive tracts are in conflict, with their own bodies, and the pain is unbearable for many. For those who are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or Scleroderma, the reality is apparent to anyone around them- bodies attack themselves. But, for those with hidden illnesses, such as EDS, the obvious dysautonomia isn't easily presented. Doctors misread the signs of extended joint pain and collagen issues as a form of depression. As a result, misdiagnoses are common.

Depression is an all encompassing illness. It's not a "fake" illness. It is a serious, possibly fatal state of mind that can occur in anyone. Those who are deeply depressed don't understand the world outside of their cloud of pain. There is always a negative response to any positive comment. There is a self-deprecation that is far deeper than the local comic's observational chuckle. It is a weed of deep rooted horror that can be a lifelong struggle for some. The more depressed someone is the less likely he will eat well, exercise, bathe, sleep well, or even have healthy relationships. As the physical body gets worn down by bad nutrition, lack of hygiene, lack of sleep, and lack of human contact it starts to break down in others ways. Sometimes that means joint pains and aches. Sometimes that means migraines and constant illness. Depression does cause physical symptoms.

For a doctor to separate Depression from Dysautonomia from Fibromyalgia from Adrenal Fatigue, the medical professional MUST pay attention to the symptoms of the patient. It's not a matter of checklists, and not a matter of blood tests alone. It is an understanding of the person who is presenting the symptoms. This is the primary reason why most who are undergoing physical issues are misdiagnosed. Doctors do not have the time as long as they're scheduled through Managed Care, and they won't make time as long as they are funded by the number of people that can be seen in a day.

A patient is almost expected to spend years going through a variety of anti-depression medications without relief.

For those who need the help there are resources:
Depression and Bipolar Support
American Pain Foundation
The National Dysautonomia Foundation
Ehlers-Danlos Foundation
Adrenal Fatigue Organization

Today's Questions- Did you have doctors tell you physical symptoms were Depression? Did you feel depressed and were dismissed? Do you find it hard to keep the same doctors long enough to have them know you as a person?

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